Andrew Piper on lists

Dimitri Nabokov, note included in The Original of Laura (Knopf 2008)Andrew Piper's essay 'Media and Metamorphosis: on notes and books' in the new everyday, a media commons project  talks about the notes made by writers as they organise a novel, or a poem cycle – anything complex that moves from idea to what is eventually published.  The fact that marginalia is a genre, that the notes themselves are a significant narrative, changes the way one thinks of the book.  It isn't just the narrative between two covers, but a book is just one piece of a much larger story that occurs in many forms, not least the act of writing itself.

Nabokov's list, above, of synonyms for removing something has one phrase completely scribbled out as if it offended him.  This isn't a list of possibles, a to-do list, rather it is a list of rejections.  Above all, it takes the words that moil around in the brain and makes them visual.  And once they are visual, they can be considered.

Goethe's list of keywords, the framework for Novella, is a map, with each country crossed off as he passed through it.

Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, collection number 25, signature W 1990